Smart meters

The majority of homes in the UK should have a smart meter by 2025. Find out how they work, and how they can save you money.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 10 March 2021  | 5 min read

Key points

  • Smart meters automatically send readings to your supplier and show you your real time energy usage
  • There are two generations of smart meter: SMETS1 and SMETS2. Suppliers should now only be installing SMETS2 meters
  • It’s free to have a smart meter installed due to a government scheme which aims to finish rolling out smart meters across the UK by 2025
  • How you get a smart meter depends on your energy supplier

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters replace your current gas/electric meters. It automatically sends regular readings to your energy supplier without the need for an internet connection.

Smart meters allow you to track your energy usage in real time as it includes an in-home display (IHD) screen to show how many units are being used and how much this will cost. You can then use this information to compare energy prices.

Energy companies are obliged to install smart meters for free under the government scheme, but you don’t have to accept one if you don’t want to – you’ll be given a normal meter instead or a smart meter with the smart functionality switched off.

Some suppliers will only accept you onto their best tariffs if you choose to accept a smart meter.

There are two generations of smart meter – SMETS1 is the first and SMETS2 is the second.

Suppliers should now only be installing SMETS2 smart meters.

Is a smart meter the same as an energy monitor?

An energy monitor just reads your energy usage. A smart meter, does that too. But it also sends readings to your provider and shows you the cost of energy you’ve used to date

Advantages of smart meters

  • No manual meter readings - Your smart meter sends readings to your supplier for you.
  • No estimated bills - Only pay for energy you’ve used.
  • In-home display - So you can keep track of how much energy you use.
  • Better energy management - Real-time energy use means you can see when and how you spend the most money.
  • Remote prepayment meter top ups - With some smart meters, you can add credit to them, saving a trip to the shops with your key.

Disadvantages of smart meters

  • Switching suppliers - Some first-generation smart meters turn 'dumb' when you switch and won't send meter readings to your new supplier. The usage data on your IHD can be inaccurate too.
  • Meter readings are sent over mobile networks for SMET1 - The data transfer can be reliable. But the industry is in the process of enrolling SMETS1 meters into its new infrastructure dedicated to reading meters instead.
  • Real-time information might be unhelpful for you - Knowing how much you’re spending each day could encourage you to switch the heating off to save. This could be bad for your health, particularly if you’re elderly or have a lung condition.

Will a smart meter save me money?

The smart meter itself won't reduce your energy bills - you'll still pay for the gas and electricity you use. But, the accurate and real-time data a meter gives can help you make informed decisions. It’s much easier for you to see where you can save energy through little changes. Things like turning off lights when you leave a room or putting your washing machine on an eco-cycle.

Another financial benefit of smart meters is that they should stop you overpaying for energy. Your supplier won’t have to rely on estimated readings.

How can I get a smart meter?

Some suppliers will contact you when they’re scheduling smart meter installations in your area. With others, you can register your interest with them and they’ll get in touch with you when you can book an appointment.

Get in touch with your supplier to find out exactly how to get a smart meter. If you’re switching suppliers, find the best the best deal you can, and double check their smart meter installation service if it’s important to you.

Supplier How to get a smart meter installed
British Gas Register your interest
Bristol Energy Register your interest
Bulb Register your interest
Ecotricity You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area
EDF Energy Register your interest
EON Register your interest
Igloo Energy Roll out began in the north at the start of 2021. You'll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area.
Nabuh Energy Register your interest
Npower No smart meter appointments being booked while Npower moves its customers to E.On Next.
Octopus Energy You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
OVO Energy Register your interest
Pure Planet You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Scottish Power  Log into your account to book an installation.
Shell Energy Register your interest
Simplicity You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Spark Energy Register your interest
SSE Register your interest
Utilita All Utilita tariffs come with a smart meter installation, so you’ll already have one if you’re an existing customer, or one will be installed if you become a new customer.
Utility Warehouse You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment. If you’re a member, you can register your interest by logging in to your account.

The deadline for the government’s smart meter rollout was originally set for the end of 2020 but this has been pushed back to 2025

Can I switch energy suppliers with a smart meter?

Yes. You can switch energy suppliers with a smart meter installed. But, depending on which generation you have installed, some of the functionality might change.

SMETS2 smart meters are designed for use with any supplier. That means when you switch, they’ll still send your meter readings automatically and you can view your energy use.

With SMETS1 meters, you’ll lose most of the functionality. You should be able to view your energy use each day, but the price will be wrong. It won’t send meter readings to your new supplier either. Most suppliers plan to update them to the latest SMETS2 technology soon.

SMETS1 versus SMETS2 smart meters

The installation of SMETS2 meters began in 2018, so if your meter was installed before then, it's likely to be a SMETS1.

The main difference between the two is that SMETS1 can lose their smart functionality when you change supplier. But energy companies are performing 'remote software upgrades', meaning that they're working to get all SMET1 meters working on the SMETS2 network - giving them the same functionality as newer meters.

If you do have a SMETS1 meter, there's nothing you need to do to make this happen, except wait.

When you have a new smart meter installed, it'll almost certainly be a SMETS2 - since June 2019 suppliers have been told to take 'all reasonable steps' to install SMETS2 smart meters, not SMETS1.

Are smart meters safe?

Yes – they use radio waves to send your readings to energy suppliers, but the level of radiation is within safe limits. Public Health England has said they are perfectly safe to have in your home.

The meters themselves are vigorously tested under UK product safety laws to make sure they operate safely too.